Rural Lifestyle Expectations: Rights, Responsibilities, and Potential Conflicts

Rural-LifestyleResidents often choose the rural setting for the peace and quiet it offers.  However, there are permissible activities that will, at times, result in unexpected noise or other kinds of impacts.  To be a good neighbor, you should be prepared to tolerate certain kinds uses and activities and, as appropriate, moderate your own activities in consideration of those living adjacent to you.

Living Near Active Ranches and Farms

The State of Colorado has adopted “Right to Farm” legislation as part of Senate Bill 29.  This statute protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance and liability lawsuits potentially brought by neighboring (non-agricultural) properties.  It is important to before aware that of potential conflicts that may arise as a result of sharing the rural community with active ranchers and farmers:

  • Farmers and ranchers do not work standard business hours. This may result in sights, sounds, and smells that you find objectionable at any time of day or night.
  • Noises from operation and maintenance of agricultural vehicles (such as tractors and loaders) are not uncommon in rural Douglas County; and neither are the sounds of domestic animals (e.g. bulls bellowing, mother cows calling to their calves, and roosters crowing). Very little regulation of these noises is allowed by State law.
  • When living adjacent to a ranch or farm there is a very good possibility of having dust (during planting and harvesting season), smoke (from controlled burns of debris), the smell of chemicals (either fertilizers or herbicides), and even the scent of manure in your home.
  • Animal uses can attract flies and other insects that do not respect property lines.
  • During certain time of the year, you may be inconvenienced by slower-moving farm and ranch vehicles.  Cattle may occasionally escape their pasture areas and wander onto local roadways.
  • Colorado is a fence-out state, meaning that it is your obligation to install fencing for purposes of keeping cattle and other livestock off of your property.

Hunting and Shooting

Hunting, fishing, and shooting sports are popular pastimes in Douglas County.  Many rural residents engage in hunting or shooting on their properties, and as a result you may hear gunshots coming from nearby properties. Hunting, target practice, and other activities with firearms are generally allowed in Douglas County’s rural areas, provided that the bullet does not leave the property.  Any safety concerns arising from the use of firearms should be directed to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Regulations

Please contact the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife for hunting and fishing regulations. It is important to contact any private landowners for permission to hunt or fish on their lands before doing so as there could be serious safety and legal consequences.

Mineral, Oil and Gas Rights

Property owners may or may not own the mineral rights under their property.  Owners of mineral rights have the right to change surface characteristics in order to extract their minerals even if the property is not owned by them.  It is important to know what minerals may be located under the land and who owns them.  A typical title commitment may not indicate who owns the mineral rights associated with a property, so you may want to specifically request that this information be provided.

Oil and gas development in Colorado is regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which is a division of the State of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. The County has a Local Government Designee (LGD) that receives information from the COGCC about potential oil and gas activities in the County. For more information the County has a web page for information and topic related to oil and gas development at Oil and Gas.

Importance of a Property Survey to Avoid Neighbor Conflicts:

Property owners should ensure that their land has been surveyed and pinned by a licensed surveyor to correctly identify the physical limits of their parcel.  In certain areas of the County, it is not uncommon to find fence lines and other improvements straddling property lines.  This can lead to conflict between neighbors that can be difficult to resolve at a future point in time. 

Zoning and Land Use

Existing and prospective landowners should understand the principles of zoning and possible land use changes.  After a property is purchased, the land surrounding your parcel may change due to existing or future development approvals.  It is wise to contact Douglas County Planning Services before purchasing land to see if there are specific land use projects pending, and to understand the types of uses that could be developed near your property under current zone district rules.  In addition, if your property is located near an incorporated city or town, you may want to check with that jurisdiction regarding any future plans for urban-level annexation and development.

As a property owner, you may wish to engage in different kinds of commercial activities in your home or on your rural property.  Always check with Douglas County Planning Services to understand what uses are allowed, prohibited, or require additional land use approvals.  Any changes to a lot boundaries or divisions of land for sale will typically require County subdivision approval.  Links to the primary land use plans and regulations for unincorporated Douglas County are provided in the:

The following document provides specific information on the kinds of permitted home occupations and the process for obtaining County approvals:  Guide to Home Occupation Permits

Share the Road

All vehicles need to be respectful of one another and share the road appropriately.  This includes residential vehicles, farm equipment, and recreational vehicles such as motorcycles and bicycles.

Working farms and ranches require a number of specialized vehicles and other equipment to manage crops (such as hay and alfalfa) and livestock.  Slow moving ranch and farm equipment utilize the County’s roadways at various times of the year.  Exercise safety and patience when encountering such vehicles.

Anticipate other roadway conflicts resulting from the seasonal use of the County’s scenic roadways by recreational motorcyclists and bicyclists.  Conversely, recreational vehicles should be aware safety risks and disruptions to traffic flow which can result from riding on gravel roads, roads with narrow shoulders, or roads with high traffic volumes.  The Douglas County Bicycling Map rates the County’s roads for a variety of factors related to safe bicycle travel.

Recreational Vehicle Use on Rural Properties

The recreational use of dirt-bikes, ATV’s, snow mobiles and similar vehicles can be a popular pastime for many rural property owners.  It is important to be considerate of adjoining neighbors who value their properties for the peaceful, quiet setting.  As a good neighbor, you should be sensitive to noise and other impacts generated by motorized recreational vehicle use on your property during particular times of day.

Pike National Forest

A large portion of Douglas County contains Pike National Forest lands.  As more residents chose to live on or near National Forest lands, there are several issues to consider.  The Forest Service controls access across forest lands.  Forest road are maintained primarily for recreational uses, and are not maintained at a level typically desired by residents.  Few forest roads are plowed in the winter and some may be subject to seasonal closures.

Forest ecosystems are not static landscapes.  In addition to natural processes such as wildfire and ecological succession, the Forest Service uses a variety of tools to manage vegetation.  These include prescribed burning, grazing, and timber management.  Where significant wildfires have occurred, increased threats from flash flooding can occur, including dangerous debris flows.